Wear your Life Jacket While Swimming and Boating

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Memorial Day 2017: Wear Your Life Jacket While Swimming, Boating
In 2016, 24 people drowned at sites managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, including Allatoona and Lanier lakes.

By Kristal Dixon (Patch Staff) - May 24, 2017 3:37 pm ET

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CARTERSVILLE, GA -- Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of the summer season and while we prepare to fire up the grill and enjoy the warm weather, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers want you to take extra precautions if your plans call for enjoying the waterways and facilities it manages.

Monday, May 29 serves as Memorial Day for 2017, a day set aside to remember our nation's veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice. Many also use this day to enjoy recreation sites managed by the Corps' Mobile District, including facilities around Allatoona and Lanier lakes.

"We are delighted that all of our recreation sites are open and that thousands will visit lakes, rivers, and beaches this weekend," said Mobile District Commander Col. James DeLapp. "Please keep in mind (that) a fun day of swimming or boating can quickly turn to tragedy if you don’t practice good safety measures, something as simple as wearing a life jacket can save a life.”

In 2016, 24 people drowned while fishing, swimming, boating or participating in some other water activity at a Mobile District recreation site. That number, Col. DeLapp added, is 24 too many, as these fatalities were preventable.

“Most of them would have survived had they been wearing a life jacket,” he added.

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This year, several lakes have water levels that are lower than the usual summer levels, which means the possibility of more obstacles for boaters and swimmers, he said.

The USACE National Operations Center for Water Safety offers these safety reminders:

Boating: Wearing a life jacket helps ensure that you can survive a fall overboard. Falls contribute to 27 percent of boating fatalities, so wearing a life jacket increases the boater’s chances of being rescued. A fall into the water can be like hitting concrete if you’re moving fast and it’s easy to get the wind knocked out of you. It takes a strong swimmer an average of 10 minutes to put on a life jacket after entering the water. Unfortunately, it only takes an average of 60 seconds for an adult to drown. If you won’t wear a life jacket for yourself, then wear it for those who love you.
Swimming: Wear a life jacket regardless of your swimming ability. No matter how well you swim, a fun swim could turn into a fight for your life due to conditions such as waves, current or exhaustion. Swimming ability also generally decreases with age. Therefore, wearing a properly fitted life jacket is critical. A manual-style inflatable belt pack life jacket works great for swimmers because they can pull the cord to inflate it if they find out they are facing challenges they didn’t anticipate while swimming.
Don’t mix alcohol and water: Being under water and under the influence is a dangerous
combination as the swimmer can easily become disoriented. Boaters can also be affected. They can develop “boater’s hypnosis,” a condition in response to sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion which causes fatigue and slows the boater’s reaction time. Combining that condition with alcohol or drugs further reduces the boater’s coordination, judgment and reaction time, so wearing a life jacket can prevent deadly consequences.
Wear a life jacket when swimming outside of designated areas. Swimmers who exceed
their abilities is the primary factor that cause drownings in USACE lakes and rivers. Many people have drowned while swimming to a buoy or across a cove. To help ensure that swimmers return home safely, they should always wear a life jacket while on or near the water, even while swimming.
“Wearing a life jacket while swimming, boating or fishing is the simplest strategy to stay safe while enjoying the water,” DeLapp said.

For more information, visit the Mobile District’s Water Safety site and the Please Wear It campaign website.